Recruitment Agencies have had it good in recent years – the Marketing Comms Industry (particularly digital) needs good talent on a large scale, and is notoriously bad at retaining it, resulting in a constant churn upon which a whole off-shoot recruiter business has thrived. This frantic talent exchange has made many people a lot of money in a short space of time and seen certain recruitment agencies achieve faster growth than the creative agencies they are servicing. It has been a dream environment that has seen the best Recruiters prosper, but also allowed those with ‘less-than best practise’ to survive on the pickings...I’ve seen it all over the past 4 years – as have all agency side recruiting managers, and I have only survived intact by holding a firm and fair line with what I am willing to accept in terms of supplier behaviour – they then need to fight amongst themselves when it comes to who-owns-which candidate, and who submitted the CV ‘first’.
I sometimes wish the candidates realised the world into which they are offering themselves up as currency when they submit their CV to a job posted in any of the industry magazines/portals. But it’s probably best they don’t know, as it would not be of the benefit of anyone, so best left alone. However, being positioned as I am, one exception to this is I wish they understood the financial implications of their own career decisions – if they decide to take another offer that came in just after that one that they ‘accepted’ it can cost the ‘soon-to-be-let-down-at-the-last-minute-agency’ many thousands of pounds, as their ‘acceptance’, however temporary, can instigate the first contractual payment to the recruiter who placed them there – this can be for anything up to 25% of the annual salary for the role if the hiring agency hasn’t properly reviewed and negotiated the recruiters T&C’s. But I digress....
So, the Recruitment Agents – they have been affected badly by the current economic conditions – the larger of them are laying off staff and the smaller agencies are either thriving on their more flexible approach to client relationships and willingness to renegotiate terms, or they are at risk of soon becoming obsolete. Those that have failed to respond to the times will flounder, as will those who survived on bad practise and underhand tactics – the recruiting managers just won’t stand for the arrogance and intimidatory approach that would previously have been swallowed in order to secure the ‘exclusive’ candidate at whatever cost.
We will see the Client Agencies continue to innovate and seek new ways to secure talent for their teams; for many agencies, once they do the due diligence on their bottom lines covering recent years, they will have highlighted the money spent on recruitment agent commissions with a big red marker – for most it will be one of the biggest outlays after salaries and rent. For these Agencies, with a more stable market such as now, it’s time to invest in thinking of ways to complete talent transactions without using a middleman. As the creative agencies start to use the skills they sell to their own clients (such as Online Communication and Content Management tools) to their own benefit and open up the paths for talent to apply to them directly, the culture of moving jobs will gradually change. Networking and referral initiatives have also been given accessible platforms such as LinkedIN, which will continue to be a major channel for opening up relevant conversations.
Of course, it’s not possible to rely on these channels alone – there will always be a very real need for agents for certain roles (particularly Senior hires) and in certain sectors, but for mainstream hires the table is turning – the power increasingly now sits with the employer – not the employee, or the employees representative.
So – what’s the future? The best recruiters will increasingly look to become specialist talent partners, and if done successfully will float to the top and do well – feeding off a new wave of Client-lead Talent Strategies that require their expertise and network to fulfil. There will be much closer relationships to be built and cherished – not just sending an obviously mass email to random contacts with a poor souls CV attached for all to scan and delete just because the agents approach was disrespectful and uninvited. It follows that those Recruiters who have mismanaged their relationships in the past will find it difficult to move forwards, and those that mistreated yesterdays candidate will fall foul to that same candidates rise to becoming tomorrows client.
Recruiters need to take a step back and realise that they need to start working in a way that mirrors the Clients they are servicing – good, robust client relationship management, flexibility, and realistic terms and conditions that aren’t unfairly weighted in their favour. They need to be part of the conversation and add value at all stages, and most importantly they need to invest time in truly learning about their Clients business, culture and idiosyncrasies, and matching them carefully with their candidates before even submitting them. They all say they do that already, but many of them really don’t and it shows.
They also need to push their hiring Clients to give them proper briefs and to include them in conversations earlier. A good recruiter can help solve complex team skills gaps & challenges and bring new ideas and options to the table, which can add proper value to an organisation.
There is an elephant in the room here, as ever – the Trust Issue. For Clients to engage with a Recruiter at the level that they need to make this work, trust needs to already exist. So in summary, this is at the heart of who will flourish and who will fall by the wayside, and for many it’s too late – trust is largely built over time already served, and is nigh-on impossible to rebuild if it has been compromised. The rogue recruiters will be exposed and their bad-practises of the past will ultimately be their downfall – for the benefit of all.